I remember at art school being taught a valuable lesson. I was the only abstract artist in the class but I still needed to learn it. When painting a landscape, townscape, seascape, the observer knows where the horizon should be, unlike in an abstract piece. The land or sea ends and the sky begins. A cathedral will be taller than Mrs Jenkins semi. A child is smaller than an adult, in the main. We know without the need for over-explaining and if the stop/start thingy is penned in sharp black, it irritates us. It is telling us what we already understand and does not respect our intelligence at all. Let the eye finish the line. That is the lesson. It is no different when writing or speaking. How often do you roll your eyes as someone says to you, having already said the sentence once, As I Already Said…….to then repeat exactly what you took in first off? Glory it drives me wild. I have to stand there and hear it all again feeling like a struggling kid in Primary One. I hear that repetition is important but it still drives me distracted. I take great care not to fall into repeating myself, even as I know I sometimes do and particularly with my own grown children as if they might have nodded off at some point and thus need mummy to resurrect that vital bit of advice. I can feel the silent sigh through the phone line and it blushes me.
Being too wordy comes from passion. Whatever I am feeling passionate about, albeit momentarily, rises in me like a lift of startled chickens, all flap and feathers and squawk. I must get this across to you and the only way I feel I can do this is through over-explanation and repetition. Why? Are you not an adult who has gone through endless situations, scenarios and experiences wherein you gathered a world of information, assessed it, filtered it, checked it through your own lens and then let it settle within? Of course you are. I wonder if this need to over explain is birthed and rooted in our innate need for connection, the need to be seen and to be valued in someone else’s eyes. Short sentences, after all, can sound clipped and nobody wants to be unkind. Certainly I don’t. So, when someone starts to explain on repeat, I may lose interest, but this must not show for I am compassionate and authentic. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me. But what about me in this situation, pinned to the wall? If I stop your babble, will this feel like criticism to you? Will you turn to go berating yourself for being a chatterbox and hating me for flagging it up? I suspect so. I recall Himself saying, just after I burst in with a story to tell, Can You Please Get to the Point? In his lack of interest in detail, I lost my own.
Allowing you to finish the line is all about respect – for you, for your intelligence but also for myself. I don’t need to explain everything. I don’t need to repeat my story. I trust that both of us will see what we see and hear what we hear. The need to explain or justify is really just insecurity. Perhaps, I say to myself as I stand in the blast of explanation, one already aptly explained some moments back, this person knows what it feels like not to be listened to respectfully. Perhaps he or she longs for compassionate, interested audience. Now I am back down on my heels and calm, leaning into it, into you, as the welter of words crowd my ears, even if the rhubarb has boiled dry and the smallest child is feeding muesli to the calf who, on finding the kitchen door open and it being cold outside, has wandered in for a warm up. It takes me no time at all to finish the line. This person is cold at night and needs more blankets. That’s it. However I now know that Grandad is arthritic and Gemma is frightened of the dark so she stayed home with Granny Music and that this person lives in Leamington Spa, well, just outside, but Granny Music lives right in the town where there are street lights right outside her home and Sandra has just passed her A levels, well, most of them, not maths, she’s not good at maths even with a private tutor who has awful breath and lives with 20 cats and it’s a long drive in the dark to get Sandra mathed up and it was a waste of money after all, not Sandra, though, she’s not a waste of money, of course not, she’s 17 now and very pretty and we are getting the early ferry next Saturday I hope that’s ok for you and where can we see otters?
I let the calf back out, muesli powder on her black snout. My visitor walks away armed with blankets and a couple of hot water bottles, feeling heard and respected. I just know it. The rhubarb is beyond hope now but that’s ok. There’s plenty of time to make an alternative crumble. I look at the clock. Fifteen minutes, that’s all this visit took and yet I have seen a whole lifescape in that time, one I will think about all day. I look out at the wide sky and the tall trees and find a warmth inside me. What came to me sharp and infuriating and with dreadful timing for the rhubarb at least, now feels like a soft line, a link between me and my visitor. I could feel her anxiety, touch her loving mother heart, see the care lines around her eyes and feel a deep respect for who she is.
I wonder how Granny Music got her name? I will never know but that’s ok. My own eye can finish the line.